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Most consumers who earn travel rewards prefer programs with flexible points that don’t tie them down to a specific loyalty program. With flexible points, they can book travel their program’s respective travel portal, redeem points for cash back or gift cards, or transfer points to popular airline or hotel programs.
Two of the most popular flexible travel programs available are Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. While Chase Ultimate Rewards has remained popular over the years thanks to travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, the Citi ThankYou program is less well known to consumers.
However, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card‘s recent re-emergence with a huge sign-up bonus (60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in three months) means the Citi ThankYou program is back at the forefront. As a result, many rewards enthusiasts are wondering which program to dive into for flexible rewards.
While both programs can be valuable, the right program for you depends on your travel goals and other factors. Here’s a rundown of both flexible travel programs and their main advantages.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Pros and cons
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program has long been considered the most valuable flexible rewards program available. This is partly due to its generous list of hotel and airline partners, but it’s also due to the outsized value Chase credit cards tend to offer.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been insanely popular among consumers since its release in 2016, and for good reason. Not only does this card offer a large sign-up bonus (50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months), but you also get a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit, and other perks in exchange for the $450 annual fee. To help you earn points faster, this card doles out 3x points on travel and dining along with 1x points on all other purchases.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the less lucrative cousin of this card with the same sign-up bonus, lower earning tiers, and a $95 annual fee the first year. Both Chase business credit cards – the Ink Business Preferred and the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card— also offer an excellent value proposition for consumers. And let’s not forget the no-fee Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited that let you earn copious amounts of cash back.
On the redemption side, Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you cash in points for statement credits or high-value gift cards at a rate of one cent each, redeem for merchandise, book travel through the Chase travel portal, or transfer points 1:1 to popular partners that include:
- Aer Lingus
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways
- Iberia Plus
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- World of Hyatt
- Marriott Rewards
- IHG Rewards Club
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Pros of Chase Ultimate Rewards
- You can sign up for multiple Chase credit cards (provided you qualify) and pool your points in a Chase travel credit card account for premier travel redemptions.
- All transfer partners let you transfer points from Chase at a 1:1 ratio.
- You can cash in for statement credits or high-value gift cards at a rate of one cent per point.
- Chase cards offer valuable earning tiers and sign-up bonuses.
Cons of Chase Ultimate Rewards
- It can be difficult to qualify for multiple Chase credit cards due to a restrictive policy known as the Chase “5/24 rule.” This rule says you can only qualify for certain Chase credit cards if you’ve had 5 or fewer new credit cards in the last 24 months.
- Some Chase credit cards charge annual fees.
- You must have a premier Chase travel credit card ( Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred) to transfer points to airline and hotel partners.
Citi ThankYou Rewards: Pros and cons
Like the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, Citi ThankYou Rewards offers a few different ways to redeem your points. You can use them to book hotels, airfare, and other travel plans through the Citi travel portal. You can also use them to shop for merchandise or redeem for gift cards to major retailers like The Home Depot, Macy’s, and Sephora.
For even more value, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to a handful of popular airline partners that include:
- Virgin Atlantic
- Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Air
- Air France / Flying Blue
- Garuda Indonesia
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Turkish Airlines
There are two main credit cards that let you earn points in the Citi ThankYou program at the moment — the Citi ThankYou Premier and the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card. While the Citi ThankYou Premier now comes with an enormous sign-up bonus (60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months), the Citi ThankYou Preferred card flops between offering no bonus or a small one (usually 20,000 points after you spend $1,500 within three months). The Citi Prestige card, which used to offer giant sign-up bonuses and valuable travel perks, is no longer available to consumers.
Pros of Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Use points for merchandise, gift cards, travel booked through the Citi travel portal, or point transfers.
- The Citi ThankYou Premier offers a huge sign-up bonus and valuable earning tiers. This includes 3x points on travel including gas and 2x miles on dining and entertainment. You also get 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
- Transfer points to airline partners.
- When you redeem Citi ThankYou points for airfare, 60,000 points are worth $750.
Cons of Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Not all Citi transfer partners let you transfer points 1:1. Also note that Citi ThankYou Rewards doesn’t offer any hotel partners.
- Since only one Citi ThankYou card offers a big sign-up bonus, it’s more difficult to rack up points quickly.
- Citi airline partners are less popular than Chase airline partners.
- While you can redeem Citi ThankYou points for cash back, you’ll only get .5 cents in value each when you do. You’ll also get less than one cent per point when you redeem for merchandise.
Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards?
If you’re in the market for a new rewards program, make sure to consider both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Both programs offer several ways to redeem your points, including booking travel directly and transferring points to loyalty partners.
Also ask yourself if you might benefit from participating in both programs. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards share several airline partners (Air France/Flying Blue, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic), earning huge sign-up bonuses with Chase and Citi can help you reach travel redemptions with these airlines faster. Also note that having points with both programs can provide you with more flexibility and more transfer partners to choose from over all.
Click here to learn more about the Citi ThankYou Premier from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Citi ThankYou Preferred from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Ink Business Preferred from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.
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